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Teaching Tips 13

A telegram warmer & prominence
New year resolutions
Friendly evaluation

A telegram warmer & prominence
This is a fun activity to use as a warmer & also as an introduction to prominence.

Ask the students to write a three or four word telegram in secret - elicit an example to give them the idea. When all have one written, assign roles in pairs of sender & receiver. The receiver sits in front of the sender with her/his back to the sender who writes, letter by letter, the telegram on their partner's back with a pen. Not with the nib - the other end so that the student 'receiving' the message can feel each letter being drawn on her/his back.
While the message is being conveyed the receiver can write each letter down. When all of the telegram has been written they check to see if it has been received correctly. Then the students change roles.

After this you could then ask the students to write their telegrams out in full & then you could tell them about prominence (sentence stress). E.g. we hear the prominent words - the content words (nouns, verbs..) - not the grammar words (prepositions, auxiliaries..). The content words carry the important information. This is the first function of prominence - to convey important information. The idea of telegrams is the same.
Then you could transfer this all to a listening activity - the students listen to isolated utterances & have to mark the stressed words/syllables. They then see if they could get the message across with just these words - telegram style!

For the slowly expanding section devoted to phonology.
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New Year Resolutions
New Year resolutions are always a nice way to begin the first lesson after the Xmas break. The discussions bring out things that happened last year as well as things the students would like to happen to them personally this year & provide a good group feeling to the start of the term.

As an extension on this you could focus on effective learning strategies. Here the students make a list of things they might want to change in the coming year. Prepare a list of manageable things that you think will help them to become more effective learners, such as keeping better vocab & language records, reviewing vocabulary for five minutes each day, spending more time on homework, writing down strategies of how they went about doing a particular task etc... Discuss them as a group, maybe put them in order of importance, & ask the students to choose three that they'd like to incorporate. Remind them of these in the next few lessons & come back to them in a month's time to see if they've kept to their resolutions or not.

You could also extend the 'resolution' idea by getting into the area of conflicts happening around the world - or local ones if it would be more interesting. Clearly they would all be better resolved but ask your students to discuss which, if they had the power, they would resolve first. They also have to give reasons for their choices.

Then they could discuss New Year resolutions that public figures might make e.g. Bush, Blair etc. And then you're into predictions for the year ahead & the language of prediction & probability.

For classroom use, there is a 'Review of the Year 2000 Quiz' on this site
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Friendly Evaluation
Last week I talked about a 'snail race' as a means to getting your students to review their notes & have a fun competition about the work covered. You may want to give a more formal test to really show them what they have covered & what they have got under their belts, or not. Here are a few ideas to consider

Before the test:
- tell the students which areas your are going to include in the test.
- give out the test in the previous lesson & give them twenty minutes to look it over. They then know what to go & review.
- give out the test for them to take away & look at, but not do, & bring it back to complete in the next lesson. (I really think this is the way the DELTA written exam, for language teachers, should go - give out the material a few days before the exam & the actual questions on the day.)

While they do the test:
- let them refer to their notes, a grammar book, a dictionary - all important study tools.
- let them ask you, & each other, questions.

After the test:
- let the students mark their own test, each others
- another way of getting them to refer to the coursebook & their notes.
- let them decide which areas they need to cover again.

It is important to explain to the students why you are taking this rather different approach to the test. The idea behind these ideas is that the students do take the test seriously & they motivate them to actually review the work covered & perform better. A friendly, motivating approach to testing!

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